Over the years, Florida has saved some incredible places that improve our quality of life and make Florida a great place to live. From state and local parks to wildlife preserves, our state is a natural wonder. To continue to protect Florida, we must continuously conserve more land for future generations to enjoy.
And while 2020 has been a challenging year in many ways, we can still celebrate this year’s robust conservation wins. Check out these awesome acquisitions and read more about land and water conservation in our Gems Report.
5,777 acres Sarasota County
This acquisition was the largest undeveloped property in Sarasota County and serves as a huge conservation win protecting water supply, the globally imperiled dry prairie habitat, while also providing new recreation opportunities in the area. “This is the type of bold and effective project that Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Programs, that these conservation programs were envisioned to do. This is not only going to protect water supply, but it includes a globally imperiled habitat, the dry prairie; and it’s going to provide new, unique recreation opportunities to the residents of this area. I want to recognize the hard work of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast – they’ve been working on this project for decades, since their inception in 2003. They’re coming to you with a match to make this project happen. So it takes these partnerships, and I think that these are two projects that we’ll be very proud of for decades to come,” said Government Relations Director Lindsay Cross .
Etoniah/Cross Florida Greenway
1901 acres Clay, Putnam, Marion, Levy, and Citrus Counties
The Etoniah/Cross Florida Greenway project is surrounded by Belmore State Forest, Ocala National Forest, Halpata Tastanaki Preserve, and other smaller tracts of conservation lands. This piece would enhance the connection between the Ocala National Forest and Camp Blanding Joint Military Training Center. The lands protected within this project have significant surface water, wetland, and aquifer recharge value. Read more about this project in our Gems Report!
Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area
578 acres Franklin and Gulf Counties The property lies within the Apalachicola River and Bay watershed and expands upon the state’s recent 20,168-acre addition to the Lake Wimico tract. Through this acquisition, the public will have access to large expanses of natural areas throughout north Florida. These tracts include examples of almost all the natural communities of north and central Florida, from scrub to swamps and springs. Read more about this project in our Gems Report!
“This land is one of the most undeveloped, diverse, productive and economically important natural systems in the southeastern United States,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This acquisition will protect drinking water supplies, preserve the vitality and connectivity of wildlife habitats, and expand public lands access. This success is the result of cross-sector partnerships and dedicated coordination.”
Seven Runs Creek
638 acres Washington County This acquisition borders the Choctawhatchee River and Pine Log Creek. The land, which would be managed by the Florida Forest Service, would provide opportunities for boating, hiking, camping and hunting and be used for Operation Outdoor Freedom events for disabled veterans.
10,684 acres, 5,804 additional acres (two transactions in 2020) Hendry County Devil’s Garden is a 82,995-acre tract used for cattle grazing and is considered a primary and secondary zone for the federally endangered Florida panther. This land provides habitat to several threatened native plant and animal species, and provides critical habitat connectivity to nearby Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve.
Acquisition of this project will fill a critical gap in the Florida wildlife corridor which protects the Florida panther, Florida black bear, and several more threatened and endangered native species. This property would also help to complete the Florida National Scenic Trail and allow for a diverse range of recreational activities, including camping, picnicking, hiking, wildlife observation, bicycling, and horseback riding.
Dickerson Bay/Bald Point
17,080 acres Franklin and Wakulla counties Dickerson Bay and Bald Point, also known as The Bluffs, is home to productive estuaries that recreational and commercial fisheries rely on. It is the economic lifeblood of the region, as well as a vital area designated as a buffer for climate change.
Tippen Bay Ranch
2,883 acres DeSoto County Tippen Bay Ranch provides habitat for federal and state listed species, like endangered Florida scrub-jay. Located near other conservation lands, Blue Head Ranch and Fisheating Creek, this acquisition will continue to strengthen the habitat linkages in the region.
S.Y. Hartt Ranch
748 acres Highlands County This land acquisition will connect Goolsby Ranch and Rafter T Ranch conservation easements to Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area. It will also serve as a crucial buffer to the Avon Park Air Force Range. Read more about this project in our Gems Report!
“The Rural and Family Lands Program is so critical to conserving and protecting our natural lands and our waterways. I’m really proud of it because we know that farmers and ranchers are so important to the conservation partnership that we have with the state. They really can complement our efforts to make sure future generations can enjoy the same clean water, air, wildlife, and beautiful outdoors they deserve.” said FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried.
713 acres Polk County
The Green Swamp supports the headwaters of the Hillsborough River, the primary drinking water source for the City of Tampa and portions of the metropolitan Tampa Bay region. It forms the headwaters of four major rivers—Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha, Hillsborough, and Peace—and provides significant watershed and floodplain protection as well as aquifer recharge. This land acquisition will protect drinking water, wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and lands that buffer the impact of climate change. Read more about this project in our Gems Report!
Micco Bluff Ranch
668 acres Okeechobee County This perpetual conservation easement protects lands lying within the Micco Bluff Ranch project of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Florida Forest Service Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Some funds used to purchase this easement came from United States Air Force REPI grant for the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape Program.
The military can be a key partner in conservation. The Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, administered by the US Department of Defense, uses land as a buffer to military operations and installations such as Avon Park. By leveraging funding opportunities, REPI helps enhance connectivity with nearby protected landscapes.
Despite the pandemic, Florida is still being developed at rapid speeds. By 2040, Florida will be home to more than 26 million residents. The threat of losing our remaining natural treasures and further spoiling our waters has only increased. But there is hope. FCV will continue to advocate for land and water conservation funding and to help in these efforts, you can support us by purchasing a Gems Report.
2020 Florida Forever Atlas: https://floridadep.gov/sites/default/files/2020%20Florida%20Forever%20Project%20Atlas.pdf
Florida Forever 5-Year Plan: